If I told you that this was the game of the year I wouldn't be lying. But I would be accused of favouritism and elitism. Favouritism because not everyone in the office is into it as much as I am - let's face it Sim City is hardly brimming with nail biting, edge of the seat excitement. And elitism because not everyone has 4Mb RAM and a hard drive on their Amiga A1200.
Yes, you have read the closing words of the last paragraph correctly. Maxis have gone out on a limb and made Sim City 2000 a high spec machine game and to hell with the begrudgers. The reason for this is simple enough: the powers that be insisted that the Amiga conversion reached the same high quality graphics and interface standard as its Mac and PC cousins, and since it only runs properly on high end, all singing and dancing versions of these machines the same was inevitable on the Amiga.
A500 and A600 users can forget about it. Sadly there will never be a version for them. A1200 owners have two options: forget about it too or upgrade. If I were you I'd choose the latter option. If you've been waiting for an excuse to do so I can't think of a better one, and imagine what a difference it will make when using other applications if you've got 2Mb extra RAM and an accelerator in your trapdoor and an Overdrive in the sideslot.
Those familiar with the old top-down viewed Sim City, one of the best selling Sim games of all time, will find the interface and idea similar but vastly improved, You now have an angled side view, where you can see buildings actually being constructed, planes flying around, trains chugging up and down the tracks and little ant-like entities known as cars jamming up the highways.
Getting down to the nitty gritty it's all about planning: zoning land, providing power, water and a transport infrastructure, city services such as police, hospitals, firemen and education and, at a later stage keeping people happy by building beautiful parks and sports stadiums. All of this attracts people, good and bad, rich and poor to your city, who in turn pay taxes and float bonds and allow your metropolitan sprawl to get bigger and bigger.
At the beginning of the game you start out with a landscape which is either automatically created or done so with some help from you. The landscape editor allows you to specify how much dry land, aforestation and water you want and the amount of hills or plains, then, having generated a thing of beauty, you are given the option to mould it further.
This allows you to do large scale landscape gardening and dream up some magnificent cities built high on mountains or on islands. Magnificent maybe, but hardly practical. Still everything's a challenge.
Once you've settled on a landscape it's time to get things going so you zone some of that land for building high or low density industry, residential or commercial buildings. The other two things you need to do immediately is set up a generating station for electricity and put in some roads so that people can get about.
POWER AND ENVIRONMENT
At the beginning of the game you start off with access to water, oil or coal power generation. If you have set up the landscape with plenty of flowing water then the choice is obvious, the only problem being that although they're clean, hydroelectric plants don't provide an awful lot of power and can thus limit expansion.
Most cities start off with the more expensive and pollution contributing coal generator, but it gets the job done and will allow a lot of city expansion before it needs to be supplemented. One point to remember though is that a generator has a life of 50 years before it needs to be replaced so this cost should be built into long term fiscal plans.
Plenty of roads, a good bus service and a train, possibly connected up with a neighbouring town will keep business flowing and at a later stage you can add a subway to your plan. Commercial transport is also very important and if you're right by a large stretch of water then a dock development would be a strikingly good idea. Once again, later on in the game an airport will also become available.
Where would we be without new technology? The answer in Sim City 2000 is nowhere. As the game progresses the marvels of the future becomes the day to day realities of the present as nuclear power and self contained village towers.
'Arcologys' rear their ugly heads. Of course you could spend your city's whole existence with a nuclear ban in place and with leafy suburbs as the order of the day but you're never going to get rich, and the surrounding Sim Nation towns will outstrip your population may times over.
The level of detail is impressive and apart from sewage and dustbin collecting I don't think Maxis have missed a trick. There is even a military presence, in the form of navy, air force or army bases. If you have a port then the navy will bring extra funds to your city but if you have a nuclear ban in place you'll never get the air force because they like their nuclear weapons, they do.
Yes, Sim City 2000 is devastatingly impressive. When you start out raw at the beginning it's quite a good idea to have more than a cursory glance at the manual. It's not that you won't pick up the idea by yourself, it's just that there is so much to do that unless you are forewarned the only indications you will have that strings are going wrong are slow growth and messages in the town newspaper that all is not well and the citizens are unhappy.
The City Chronicle is one of the most important aspects of the game and you should ignore its often ridiculous ramblings at your peril. It is a gauge of public opinion and, in general, if you fly in the face of this people will migrate elsewhere.
You can start off at the simplest level back at the beginning of this century with a lot of money or, once you're ready for a real challenge, you can enter at the end of the century when technology exists and you have to move quick to remain competitive.
One way of raising more cash is to issue bonds to the populace. This is expensive but you can't be prudish about borrowing if you're the mayor of a modern city, remember though that ultimately, in order to succeed, you have to pay these bonds back, so you can't squander them. Well, maybe. Actually it's great fun squandering bonds and building massive metropolitan nightmares, your ego swelling along with the city limits.
Then disaster strikes. How about an earthquake? Or an Alien invasion? There is a pop down menu entitled Disasters, any of which can happen to your city unless they are turned off. If you leave the Disaster option on you had better make sure that there's a reasonable fire department in your city and you have a rebuilding fund built in to your long term budget.
And, once you've mastered the game you can relieve the hard work of having to build another city and test out your skills on a number of existing scenarios, cities supplied by Maxis with more trouble on their collective plates than any normal mayor could possibly handle. If you're confident of your skills you can take one of them on and see how well they recover under your nurturing influence.
There's no doubt about the thoroughness of this game and its long term lastability. The menus and toolbar can all be opened as individual windows and the amount of information available means that there is never any problem in finding a course of action to take - for right or wrong. Your cities can be as big or small, imaginative or plain, dirty or clean as you please. When you get to a certain size you are rewarded with a mayor's residence and the satisfaction of achieving this is great - but you're still only starting out.
Control by mouse is easy and the quality of the graphics means that you are never in doubt as to what you are doing at any stage. There is plenty of help from fiscal advisers, but you have the ultimate decision on what happens. The zoom function on the toolbar means that you cant take either a tactical, local area view or a strategic view of the direction your city is expanding and moving about is easy with either the centering tool or the scroll bars on the side and bottom of the playing screen.
It's a pity Sim City 2000 isn't available to lower end users - it could be a best seller. But Maxis are banking on the fact that it's good enough to see in droves even so. One word of warning though: on high en machines Sim City 2000 is still slower than its Mac or PC equivalent, unless you have an accelerator as well as extra RAM.
But, in the final analysis, does this really matter? In short no. At the beginning it might be a tad infuriating, but once you actually start really playing the game you get used to it and long term enjoyment, at least until you become an absolute expert, is not effected in the least. You've spent a lot of money on your Amiga. Go on, treat yourself.